Melon Mania: 5 refreshing watermelon-based recipes you can try at home this summer

TNIE examines the history and relevance of watermelon, a fruit which has a near cult-like following in India as summer intensifies
Photo Credits: Pexels
Photo Credits: Pexels

The mercury has begun to soar, heralding the advent of what is likely to be another punishing summer. Providing a small and albeit temporary respite against the scorching heat is the many oases of shades mushrooming in the city — shades set up by street vendors wherein they offer cold beverages and fruit punches.

Among them, nothing is as soothing to the eye as the sight of a big, red watermelon. I bet everyone has had a glass, if not a pitcher, of this nourishing drink, or bit into its inviting meat. If there’s anything that makes Indian summers tolerable, it is watermelon. According to Mark Twain, to taste a watermelon is to know what the angels eat.

But did you know? The sweet and tender watermelon that we enjoy today is the result of centuries-old alterations to its cultivation process. Studies have found that watermelon’s progenitor was first cultivated in Africa before it spread to Mediterranean countries and other parts of Europe. The variety citron melon, which grows in southern Africa, is believed to be watermelon’s ancient ancestor.

The second popular variety is the egusi melon from western Africa. Interestingly, people cultivated it for its edible seeds rather than its flesh. However, the ancestral varieties or the wild watermelons were unappetising as they tasted bitter.

Yet, despite them tasting bitter, and, at times, bland, watermelons were cultivated rampantly as they were edible even weeks after cultivation. Before the dry spell, people stored these melons and survived off them by extracting its water.

Later, growers began breeding watermelon selectively to make them sweeter. The flesh of the fruit reflected this change, donning a bright red shade.

The Egyptian connection

There’s also evidence of Egyptians growing watermelon crops around 4,000 years ago. Paintings of the fruit have been discovered in Egyptian tombs, including King Tut’s. In addition, remnants of watermelons have also been found inside the tombs — apparently, in a bid to keep the deceased hydrated in their journey to the afterlife.

<em>Image used for representational purposes only (File Photo)</em>
Image used for representational purposes only (File Photo)

The Greek connection

For the Greeks, watermelon was called ‘pepon’, and was used to treat heatstroke-affected children by placing rinds of this watery fruit on their heads. Aside from this healing property, watermelons were also considered as a cooling food. This feature was mentioned by Roman naturalist, Pliny the Elder, in his first-century book, Historia Naturalis.

The political connection

Besides being a sweet fruit that can be relished any time of the day, the oblong-shaped watermelon is also a political tool. The ‘Watermelon Riot’ in 1856 is a good example. In the 19th century, the United States was involved with the Isthmus of Panama, as it was the most convenient area in Central America for easy transoceanic transit. On April 15, 1856, a train carrying 1,000 California-bound passengers arrived in Panama City. Here, on account of low tide, passengers could not board the steamship John L Stephens and continue onward. Some of the passengers got down to explore the La Cienaga region.

One of them, Jack Oliver, on his meandering, stumbled on a watermelon shop, took a slice of the fruit and refused to pay. Heated arguments broke out. Soon, Oliver had his gun out and the vendor, his knife. The escalating violence soon transformed into a fight between the locals and the Americans. Several were dead and scores injured.

Watermelon is a powerful symbol for Palestinians. The fruit has once again cropped up as a political tool in the wake of the Israel-Hamas war. It started as a means to circumvent the ban imposed by Israel banning the display of the Palestinian flag after it seized control of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967. This led the Palestinians to use watermelon because the fruit bears the same colours as the Palestinian flag — red, black, white and green.

Needless to say, the mighty watermelon has left some indelible marks in history. Now, let’s examine the nutritional benefits of this beloved fruit.

<em>Image used for representational purposes only (File Photo)</em>
Image used for representational purposes only (File Photo)

Nutritional benefit

Watermelon has 92% water content and it keeps one refreshed and revitalised

Loaded with Vitamin A and C, it strengthens immunity, improves vision and nourishes from within

The lycopene content promotes healthy cholesterol levels and blood pressure

Despite being sweet, watermelon remains a low-calorie, low-fat, guilt-free indulgence for those mindful of their weight and wellness

It also aids in digestive health and prevents constipation

Due to its hydrating properties, the fruit is the skin’s best friend as well

Though ongoing research is still exploring watermelon’s potential, studies have shown that it may prevent cancer

Frozen watermelon margarita


Watermelon cut into cubes: 800g

Tequila: 125ml

Triple sec: 75ml

Lime: 2, zested and juiced, plus a wedge for the rim

Honey: 2 tsp

For the garnish

Sea salt flakes: 4 tsp

Caster sugar: 2 tsp

Chilli flakes: ¼ tsp

Method: Put the watermelon pieces in a freezer-proof container and keep them overnight until solid. As it cools, prepare the garnish for the rim of each glass. Combine the sea salt flakes, sugar, chilli flakes and lime zest in a small bowl. Set aside. Once the watermelon pieces are set, put them along with tequila, triple sec, lime juice and honey in a food processor and churn them until smooth. Run a lime wedge around the rims then dip in the garnish mix. Pour the drink into the glasses. Serve immediately.

Watermelon Popsicles


Medium-sized watermelon: One

Lime juice

Method: Cut one medium-sized watermelon and chop them into cubes. In a blender, add the melon pieces and freshly squeezed lime juice for a better taste. Blend until completely smooth. Pour the watermelon mixture into popsicle molds, cover and add popsicle sticks to them. Finally, freeze the popsicles until they’re set, either 4 hours or overnight.

Watermelon pudding


Watermelon: 4 cups (coarsely chopped)

Cornstarch: 2 tbsp

Granulated sugar: ¼ cup

Vanilla bean: ½

Fresh lemon juice: 2 tsp


Whipped cream (optional)

Unsalted pistachios (chopped or ground)

Method: Blend the watermelon pieces until smooth. Pour through a strainer into a cup. This will have 3 cups of watermelon juice. Take 2 tbsp watermelon juice into a small bowl and add cornstarch. Stir until it’s smooth. Pour the remaining watermelon juice into a saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 min. Add sugar and vanilla seeds, then whisk until sugar is dissolved. Stir the cornstarch mixture again and add to the watermelon juice. Simmer and stir occasionally, for 3 minutes. Add lemon juice. Pour the pudding through a clean strainer into small glass jars. Cover and chill for 3 hours.

Watermelon rind pickle

Courtesy: The Spruce Eats


Watermelon rind: 0.97kg

Pickling salt: 1/4 cup

Water: 4 cups

Granulated sugar: 2 cups

White vinegar: 1 cup

Cinnamon stick, broken up: 1 tbsp

Whole cloves: 1 ½ tsp

Thinly sliced lemon: 1/2

Method: Remove the dark green and pink parts from the watermelon rind. Cut rind into 1-inch cubes and measure out 7 cups. Put the rind in a container with salt and 3 cups of water. Add more water to cover the rinds, if necessary. Soak overnight. Drain and rinse rind. Cover the rind with cold water in a saucepan. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Combine the sugar, vinegar, cinnamon, whole cloves, and remaining 1 cup water. Simmer for 10 minutes in a pot. Add the drained watermelon rind, lemon slices, and simmer the mixture for 30 min. Fill half-pint jars with the hot watermelon rind and syrup mixture, Jars should be kept in boiling water for 5 min. Then let it cool.

Watermelon, cucumber, feta salad


Honey: 2 tbsp, Lime juice: 2 tbsp

Extra virgin olive oil: 1 to 2 tbsp

Salt: a pinch , Salad

Watermelon (peeled, cut into cubes): ½

Cucumber (cubed): 2 cups

Fresh mint leaves (chopped): 15

Fresh basil leaves (chopped): 15

Crumbled feta cheese: ½ cup

Method: In a bowl, whisk honey, lime juice, olive oil and a pinch of salt together. Set aside for a moment. In a large bowl, combine the watermelon, cucumbers, and fresh herbs. Top the watermelon salad with the dressing and gently toss to combine. Add the feta cheese.

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